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Tea leaves: GOP establishment still rules

Tea leaves: GOP establishment still rules
By: Jonathan Martin
February 3, 2010 11:38 PM EST

The widely anticipated civil war within the Republican Party is off to a decidedly dull start.

Defying predictions from last year, early evidence suggests that party leaders and even most grass-roots activists are more interested in winning elections than in ideological bloodletting.

A spate of recent developments points to two conclusions about the modern Republican Party that were in doubt as recently as a few months ago.

The first is that for all the talk about tea party insurgents and fulminating radio and cable commentators taking over, the GOP remains above all an establishment party.

GOP leaders easily swatted down a proposed “purity test” for candidates at last week’s Republican National Committee meeting — an indication that party officials are no more willing to turn over the keys to right-wing activists now than they were during the Bush years.